An adorable baby who was cruelly dubbed a “monster” after he was born with a cleft lip and palate gave a wide smile after facial surgery.
Little Paul nearly starved after his condition made it impossible for him to breastfeed properly and his worried mum Francoise rushed him to a hospital boat as soon as it docked.
He was nursed back to health by medics who sourced a special bottle he could drink from – and three months later he was back on board for surgery.
Now the little tot is smiling wide thanks to surgery to his lips and palate, and is now able to eat and drink like any other little baby.
Francoise from Cameroon said: “When I look at my baby, I can only cry – but it is tears of joy.
“Even I am gaining weight, now that I can eat and sleep!”
Paul was brought to a hospital boat operated by charity Mercy Ships when he was three-months-old and weighed just 4.4lbs – less than when he was born.
“I didn’t understand why it was happening or what I could do to help him,” his mum said.
“I couldn’t breastfeed him properly.
“No matter what we did, he kept losing weight.
“We were so scared. We thought he would die.”
The medical staff immediately recognised he was in a critical condition and brought him onboard before the hospital was even officially opened.
He was fed through a nose-to-stomach tube and then a syringe, before they found a special bottle made for babies with cleft lip and palate.
It was touch-and-go for a few days, but as the weeks passed baby Paul began to fill out, his hair became thicker, and his skin became less thin, medics said.
Three months after he first came to the boat, he was once again carried up the gangway – this time for a cleft lip repair.
Lee-Anne Borrow James, infant feeding programme dietician said: “The dynamic between dietician, mother and infant is a special one to be a part of.
“Many mothers struggle with believing that their baby’s condition is not their fault, but is instead something that occurred naturally and can be fixed.
“It took time for Francoise to trust the affirming words of the Mercy Ships dietician team.
“It’s been amazing to watch over time how she’s worked very hard for her baby.
“She’s quite determined. She fiercely knows what she wants and what she needs to do.”